MONTICELLO -- Zanna Myers had to quickly block out her shooting woes.
After a 2 of 9 shooting day Friday, the Monticello sharp-shooting senior had to put the game behind her.
And when the Sages needed her most, she delivered.
Monticello wasn't completely reeling, but Paxton-Buckley-Loda had the Sages on high alert. Then Myers canned a triple from the left corner with 37 seconds left in the third quarter and the rest of the team answered on the way to a 53-38 win over PBL to win the Monticello girls Holiday Hoopla for the second consecutive year.
The Sages (12-0) were in the middle of watching a 16-point lead midway through the third quarter get trimmed to five in little more than two minutes.
Then came a break when PBL's Cassidi Nuckols suffered an injury just below her left eye to stop the game.
PBL answered with a layup after the break to cut the lead to five, 35-30, with 3:13 left in the third quarter.
On the following possession, Myers, who had 13 points, hit her 3-pointer from the corner to re-extend the lead to eight, 40-32, to end the third.
Monticello opened the fourth on a 7-0 run to take a 15-point lead. PBL never got back within single digits.
“From yesterday it was a lot better," Myers said. "I was pretty much missing everything. Everything was off. I think that was my moment like, ‘All right, things are getting back to where were and I’m ready to go.’ It’s OK if they made a layup. We play our game and they play theirs."
But it wasn't just the triple that sparked the Sages. Monticello forced 22 turnovers. Myers had seven steals and McCall had five.
The Sages still had to slow down the lights-out shooting of PBL's Liberty Jamison, who scored 15 points on 5 of 16 shooting.
Emily Wilson did those honors.
“I feel like, it wasn’t just my 3, then we go back and play defense," Myers said. "Emily played amazing defense on their greatest 3-point shooter on the team."
Every team knows to game plan for Myers and senior Tatum McCall, who scored 20 points. PBL dared any other Monticello player to step up.
And they did.
Wilson scored nine points and added six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Jayna Burger scored six, four coming in the fourth quarter, and pulled down nine boards and blocked three shots. Tiffany Montgomery added three points off the bench.
"We had some players step up who needed to step up in the second half," Monticello coach Dave Beery said. "Emily Wilson and Jayna Burger stepped up big time and I couldn’t be more proud of them.
"Of course, Tatum and Zanna pretty much give us that effort every night. Tiffany (Montgomery) came in and did a nice job. When they went to the triangle and two, we were going to have some other players step up and kind of win the game for us and they did that. I couldn’t be happier."
Myers knows how crucial those three are.
“Those three have done an amazing job this year stepping up and playing their hardest," she said. "They are a key assets to our team defensively. Tiffany may not be the strongest on the boards, but she’s a phenomenal defender."
The triangle and two defense is often used to stop teams with two dynamic guards -- the Sages fit that bill.
It was something PBL coach Nathan Lawler and his team hadn't really practiced much prior to the game.
Overall, he was happy with the performance. Monticello shot 34.3 percent in the first half.
He also planned to force other Monticello players to step up.
“Unfortunately, that’s what we wanted was to let the other girls beat us," Lawler said. "Zanna and Tatum, if we could hold them to a decent or lower amount than usual, then I’m happy with that."
Running away with it
The Sages used their defense to spark several small runs throughout the game.
At the end of the first, Monticello scored six straight after three PBL turnovers.
It happened again in the third and fourth, where the team came up with stops and got out in transition to spark the opening run.
“We had some there in the third quarter and another little flurry in the fourth quarter," Beery said. "When they were thinking about getting back in the game we turned them over several times in a row."
Don't see many like them
Lawler has seen players like Myers and McCall, he's derived game plans to try to stop players like them.
What he doesn't have to do often is stop teams who have to players like them.
It doesn't hurt that the rest of the supporting casts rounds out the team to perfection.
"They have some size too," Lawler said. "Transition-wise, they just run and they get out. That really killed us. We don’t see teams that are that athletic. That was kind of the difference. They got out in transition and got easy layups and hit some 3s. It’s the name of the game, unfortunately."
Good to see
Beery isn't particularly enthralled when his team gives up points, but it's basketball, it happens.
But every here and again something can captivate coaches.
In this case, it was Madison Grohler coming off the bench for PBL and scoring four points.
Grohler isn't the focal point of many scouting reports.
“(Madison Grohler) hit a couple shots down there, which is ironic because we were like, ‘Let 40 shoot and let’s see what she can do.’ Hats off to her," Beery said. "That’s cool to see kids step up. I think she’s kind of a role player for them so it’s cool to see that. Even if it’s someone from the other team, I like it.”